Bringing Water Withdrawals Back to a Sustainable Level Is Essential for Future Growth in Prosperity and Well-Being
Herbert Oberhänsli, Nestlé SA
As most water is used in agriculture (70%), energy (10%) and other industry (10%), overuse will increasingly manifest itself as a chokepoint for economic development. Population growth and rising prosperity will see demand rise towards 7,000 km³ annually by 2030 – but only 4,200 km³ can be used sustainably. Over the next 5 to 10 years, we need to devise new mechanisms, whether price or non-price, to bring withdrawals back into line with sustainable supply – a challenge, given water’s status as a basic necessity and its perception as a free good given its abundance until 2000. Global principles can give guidance, but all mechanisms need to be local; the cross-border management of river basins offers an opportunity to foster peaceful cooperation and overcome potential conflict among stakeholders.